The Refugee Family

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The Refugee Family

July 1, 2018

King Herod was troubled, and all Jerusalem troubled with him.   The Magi have arrived in Palestine asking: AWhere is the one who is born king of the Jews?@  Herod summons the chief priests and scribes and inquires where this king is to be born.  And citing OT prophesies they reply, AIn Bethlehem of Judea.@ And so this venal and crafty ruler send for the Magi and instructs them, AWhen you have found this new-born king, come and tell me so that I, too, may go and worship him.@  SURE!

After Jesus is born he is  visited by the AMagi@ who present gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. But the tranquility of Asilent night, holy night@ is quickly broken by news of Herod=s intent to kill this baby. AO little town of Bethlehem B how dangerous you are to this vulnerable child.@

Herod was born around 73 B.C.  He was reared as a Jew.  He ruled in behalf of the Romans.  He was well versed in politics and assassinations.  During his reign Brutus and Cassius assassinated Julius Caesar in 44 B.C.  And a year later, Herod=s father was assassinated .

The Roman senate appointed him king of Judea in 40 B.C., and he retook the city of Jerusalem three years later from enemies from the east B the Parthians.

Herod survived only by ruthlessness.  Kill anyone who posed  a threat to his power. And he seemed to know more about the promise of the messiah than most. Having been raised in the Jewish tradition he likely connected the dots from Isaiah=s prophecy of a Messiah who would take Athe government upon his shoulders@to the king born in Bethlehem of Judea.

Herod was always on the look out for political rivals.  He  captured and killed any in Jerusalem who criticized him, and thus turned Judea into a police state.  Dissenters and opponents were executed. The country was swarming with spies and informants all.   He  regularly tortured confessions out of suspects before executing them. Private meetings were banned. In response to one assassination attempt by ten Jerusalemites, he tortured to death the wouldbe assassins and their associatesCand he had their families killed.

Herod was determined to kill any potential rival king. In 35 B.C., he had his brotherinlaw Aristobulus drowned in a swimming pool Aaccident@ because he had become popular with the people. Political conspiracies and fabricated rumors bred quickly in Herod=s court {and family}. He had ten wives and eight sons, and the question of who would succeed Herod caused incredible turmoil. Y He {even} killed three of his sons, fearing they might assassinate him. And so, the Magi are warned in a dream to not cooperate with HerodYand they get out of town quickly lest they become his next victims.

When Matthew tells us that Herod was troubled and all Jerusalem with him, we now understand what this means.  The citizens of Jerusalem wondered if they might somehow be linked to this  unknown king.

Meanwhile, Mary and Joseph are also warned in a dream of Herod=s agenda and quickly escape to Egypt. No time to Aenjoy@ motherhoodY no time to take pictures and post them on Facebook. No time to show off their newborn baby. They escape Bethlehem and flee to a safe haven in Egypt.  Lucky for them there wasn=t a wall to keep them out.

It=s an interesting turn of events. Jesus a  refugee child.  Ending up in  Egypt of all places. The very place where Jesus= ancestors were enslaved for 430 years. For that reason it was a place of last resort. But refugees are rarely given options.

Herod is determined that his rival will not survive.  He orders the slaughter of all baby boys in Bethlehem.  But Joseph, Mary and Jesus have already made it to Egypt.  They stay there until the get the news that Herod has died.  Then they return.  By this time Jesus is three or four years old.  But when they arrive back in Judea they learn that  Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod.  Like father, like son.   So they knew they were not safe in Judea.  So they then travel to the district of Galilee and settle in a small town called Nazareth, where Jesus will grow up.   Like so many refugees they have made the journey back to their homeland to learn they are still in danger.  They are seeking a safe haven.  They are seeking a better life.

We hear this story from Matthew this morning, this story we have  heard so many times at Christmas, and yet today in a different time of year and we hear it with different ears.  The holy family as refugees, desperate to escape a perilous situation, packing everything they own on a donkey and making a journey of 1000 miles by foot across the Sinai desert.

Unless our hearts are hardened beyond repair we hear this story with utterly broken hearts.  We hear it and we are reminded that one  in every 113 people on Earth have been driven from their homes by persecution,  by  conflict, by natural disasters.   We hear it at a time our own government is separating children from their parents at the our  border  An act so cruel that it is inconceivable to be happening in a country which is the finest democracy ever to exist on this earth.

We should put duct tape on the mouth of the Statue of Liberty, who has proclaimed to all the world, AGive me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.@

As much as the refugee problem is in the headlines in our country, our problem is small.

Across the world 20 people are forcibly  displaced every minute as a result of conflict or persecution.

The top 5 areas that refugees are from are Lake Chad Basin, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Syria.

The majority of refugees and displaced persons are being hosted in Africa and the Middle East.

The world=s largest refugee camp is Uganda=s Bidi Bidi refugee settlement.  Over 285,000 people live there.

Roughly 50% of all refugees are children under the age of 18 B despite the fact that children only make up about 30% of the world=s population.

The number of refugees, asylumseekers and internally displaced people around the world has topped 65 million, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in 2016. As of December 2015, there were 65.3 million displaced people, according to a report from the refugee agency.

But do I hear murmuring in the congregation.  Do I hear someone saying quietly to herself, AA sovereign nation cannot have open boarders.  We cannot let everyone in the world who wants to come here, for whatever reason, to flood into our country.  It would be chaos.@  And I agree with that thought.  This is a complicated problem with no easy solution.

The U.S. has not passed major immigration reform legislation since the Reagan administration, and we still use standards developed in the 1960s to determine who we permit to enter the U.S. A system this outdated cannot meet the needs of our vibrant, growing 21stcentury economy. Progrowth immigration reform can raise the pace of economic growth, increase per capita GDP, and reduce the deficit.  I put in the announcement section President Reagan=s speech on immigration.  It is worth your reading. Here is one quote from President Reagan: AFor one, we very much need an  immigration bill we need protection for people who are in this country and who have not become citizens, for example, that they are protected and legitimized and given permanent residency here.@

Here are five policy recommendations for a new immigration policy  in the United States.

1. Keep Our Labor Force Vibrant Through Immigration.

U.S. natives are not having enough children to replace our current population, and by extension, our labor force. A shrinking population and labor force will cause our economy to contract. More immigrants are needed to keep our population, labor force, and economy vibrant and growing.

2. Move to SkillsBased Immigration

Our current immigration system is overwhelmingly based on family reunification. Other developed economies, like Canada and Australia, admit immigrants primarily based on skills and education. Shifting the priority to a skillsbased immigration system would allow us to get the workers we need to drive economic growth while maintaining the important family reunification component.

3. Overhaul the temporary work visa system. For many temporary worker visa categories, the current system is inadequate. The caps are too low to meet market demand. The process is too burdensome to make using the legal visa system worthwhile. And some categories, like seasonal agricultural worker visas, do not meet the needs of the employers seeking workers.

4. Find a reasonable solution for the undocumented. Nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants and their families live and work in the U.S., contributing significantly to our economy. Deporting all of them is impractical, expensive, and inhumane. A reasonable solution allowing lawabiding undocumented immigrants to live and work here legally is imperative in any serious immigration reform.

5. More legal opportunities create a more secure border.

The U.S. has open jobs. Immigrants come here to fill those jobs. More legal opportunities to immigrate reduces the incentive to cross unlawfully or overstay a visa. With fewer unauthorized entries to pursue, our immigration enforcement resources can focus on the real criminals.

These are policy recommendations from the Bush Presidential Center in Houston, Texas.  Mrs. Laura Bush has said: AThis country will always will always be a place that welcomes each visitor with open arms.@

I want to close with two quotes:

AWhen a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. Lev 19:3335 (ESV)31

AWhen the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.34 AThen the King will say to those on his right, >Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.=37 AThen the righteous will answer him, >Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?=

40 AThe King will reply, >Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these { brothers and sisters of mine}, you did for me.= (Matthew 25)

Categories: Weekly Sermon

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